Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah on Monday said the party will respect its existing partners and expand the ruling National Democratic Alliance by bringing in “new friends” ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, PTI reported.

“There is a false campaign against BJP in Tamil Nadu,” he told a gathering of party cadres from across the state and Puducherry in Chennai, according to The Indian Express. “Let me tell you, BJP is the only party that can protect Tamil culture and Tamil language.”

Invoking the concept of “Tamil pride”, Shah claimed that no other party was as committed to preserving it as the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Let me promise you, if BJP is elected to power in Tamil Nadu, Tamil pride will go beyond the borders, reaching across India,” he said, adding that it was the Narendra Modi-led government that introduced railway tickets in Tamil.

Shah said he would announce the BJP’s new partners in Tamil Nadu before the Lok Sabha elections. He added that development of Tamil Nadu was a priority for the Modi government and claimed the Centre had allotted projects worth over Rs 5 lakh crore to the state in the last four years.

“When they [Congress-led UPA] were in power at the Centre, the 13th Finance Commission gave the state Rs 94,540 crore,” he said. “When the Modi government came into being, the 14th Finance Commission earmarked Rs 1,99,096 crore for Tamil Nadu.”

Shah also claimed that the BJP ensured there was no corruption wherever it formed the government or was part of the ruling dispensation.

He also said that a conference of 1.25 lakh booth-level functionaries will be held in October which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “All of you have to return to your native place and tell people about our government’s schemes. And in October, we will have a much bigger rally in Tamil Nadu,” he said.